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Les Sylphides


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29 replies to this topic

#1 glebb

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Posted 04 April 2002 - 08:03 PM

I recently viewed a video of ABT's Les Sylphides.

Baryshnikov, the dreamy Marrianna Tcherkassky, Cheryl Yeager and buoyent Cynthia Harvey are the principles.

Baryshnikov's solo was danced to different music than I seen in the past. Does anyone know why? Is his original Chopinanna music?

I have to say ABT knows how to do Les Sylphides.

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 04 April 2002 - 08:13 PM

There are two different mazurkas used for the male variation in "Les Sylphides" - they are both rather slow, but for some reason, the one that Baryshnikov danced to is referred to as the "slow" one, and the one we're used to called the "fast" one. The choreography is pretty much the same for both, some dancers electing to start in a different corner, but there's really not much difference between the two. Fokine used both during his lifetime.

#3 Alexandra

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Posted 04 April 2002 - 08:28 PM

I always thought ABT's was too slow. I wanted to bribe the conductor to pep up the tempo! But I did like Baryshnikov a lot in that. The soaring, of course, but also the softness of the landings. The richness of his body suited that sole. (I also liked Tcherkassky on stage. She probably doesn't videotape as well as the other two, but she could be lovely in the right role.)

Glebb, I think I remember reading that Baryshnikov brought with him the sllo he'd learned in Russia. There are, I believe, as many different versions of Les Sylphides as there are companies Fokine visited.

There are also quite a few on video. I like the Royal's mid-60s version with Fonteyn and Nureyev -- and I never could figure out who the other ballerinas were. It's interesting because it's more classical trhan romantic, yet still very soft and musical.

There's also a Bolshoi one. I THINK I saw this long ago, as a film, with Ulanova and N. Fadeyechev.

There must be a Kirov version on video -- you can have a Les Sylphides festival, Glebb :)

#4 BalletNut

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Posted 04 April 2002 - 10:14 PM

Yes, there is a Kirov Les Sylphides, on the Kirov Classics/Mariinsky Ballet video, with Konstantin Zaklinsky, Altynai Asylmuratova, Yelena Pankova, and Anna Polikarpova. Slightly different orchestration than ABT--a bit faster I think--and larger corps de ballet, also different lighting, less blue.

#5 Paul Parish

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Posted 05 April 2002 - 12:34 AM

Great topic, Glebb...
Did you do the mazurka? What was it like to dance? Looks like the jumps are all soft, to deep fondu -- must take a lot of stretch and a lot of breath....

And of htecourse the pas de deux, your cabrioles would have to be so clear and so distinct ath te same time as you're being totally in touch with your partner, who's bourrees are going to show it if you jar her at all -- and aren't you both going BACKWARDS most of the time?

What a beautiful ballet.......

at, I THINK the second ballerina -- the blonde, WONDERFUL dancer -- is SIbley-- the one who does the quick jetes onto pointe and the tour jetes ending in arabesque looking peek-a-boo under the arm.... couldn't b e Beriosova, or could it?

Nureyev was very poetic in that mazurka -- so soft, so musical, such beautiful line... And Fonteyn is so musical, the way she coupes and launches into her bourrees, it's dreamy....

The Oakland Ballet -- I know, I must sound like their PR agent, God knows it isn't so, they've been an EXASPERATING company, but they DID do a beautiful Sylphides --

though they never filled the male role adequately, the ladies danced it beautifully -- well, it was such a pleasure to see it LIVE, in 3-D-- certain effects that are VERY beautiful, you have to be there to see... like at some point when everybody's dancing downstage right, the ballerina by herself upstage Left (it was Lara Deans Lowe who made me see this) does a long-sustained arabesque allongee that points to them...... maybe I hallucinated this image (it's the sort of thing a video cameraman might leave out altogether, since you have to see hte whole stage-picture to see it); it hangs in my imagination, though, as almost aharmonic convergence, something LIKE that must happen -- maybe "the miseries" (the Moyna and Zulma of Les Sylphides) were doing something, or maybe it was the ballerina and her partner and it was the seconda donna who made this reverence to them, but it was a WONDERFUL effect, very very quiet....

The last time they did it, Phaedra Jarrett danced one of the supporting variatinos with such an exquisite softness in the upper body, such generous qualities to the breath, you could feel Isadora Duncan inspiring Fokine’s project, that way she had of making the movement start in the breath that you can still see in Valentine Gross's drawings of her....

#6 Mel Johnson

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Posted 05 April 2002 - 04:02 AM

I don't know whether glebb danced the mazurka in performance or not, but he's never mentioned doing the ballet, and we've been friends for over thirty years. I do know, however, that he knows everybody's part in the work. We used to diddy-bop around the studio talking about witchy male variations, and "Sylphides" happens to be one of his favorite ballets. I danced the thing under the supervision of Vitale Fokine, and it's a deceptive little devil of a variation.

The slow tempo makes phrasing and attack paramount, and talk about casting against type - I was a demi-caractére dancer and here I was doing this dreamy legato! There's enough time in the music, given the tempo for the ups to be very much up and the downs to be very much down, but you have to move between the two more like a soap bubble being carried on a breeze. No "chugging" in the pas de mazourke! One of the trickier parts is in the very opening combination, which sets the tone and style for the whole rest of the dance. It's two mazurka steps, an assemblé dessus, a sissone to first arabesque and then a piqué into attitude croisé onto the foot that's raised in arabesque! And all seamless and with a liquid but still masculine port de bras throughout.

Compared and contrasted with the legato male variations that sprang up in ballets during the late 60s and early 70s, this one has them beat all to little pieces in terms of style and technical demand on a male dancer!

#7 Helena

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Posted 05 April 2002 - 04:05 AM

On the Royal Ballet video of Les Sylphides the Valse is danced by Merle Park and the Mazurka by Annette Page, both dancers I remember very well. Park was particularly musical, a wonderful dancer indeed. Annette Page was one of those dancers who was always overshadowed by the great dancers of that era - Fonteyn, Sibley, Park and Seymour, but nevertheless she danced many leading roles. I love that video, because it shows Nureyev exactly as I remember him.

#8 Alexandra

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Posted 05 April 2002 - 08:05 AM

Thanks, Helena. I guessed Park, but she's chubbier than she was by the time I saw her in the late '70s. I also remember her as very musical. I never saw Page, so thank you for the identifications.

#9 glebb

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Posted 07 April 2002 - 06:27 AM

I've heard that Glazounov orchestrated Chopin's piano music for "Les Sylphides". Was the ballet named "Les Sylphides" from the very start? If so, what was "Chopinianna"?

I've also heard that for "Chopinianna", the march, that is used at the beginning of Robbin's "The Concert" ,was the overture.

Does anyone know?

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 07 April 2002 - 06:46 AM

Back in the days of the original "Chopiniana", the ballet was a suite of dances, all of which were danced. The original first movement was the "Military" polonaise, which was danced by a corps of character dances, there was a Tarantella for a corps of demi-caractére dancers, complete with Vesuvius backdrop. I believe the Prelude was for a seated "Chopin" with the ballerina acting as his "muse", part of which has been preserved in the choreography presently used - all those "listening" poses. The Valse pas de deux was pretty much as we see it today, and that's about as far as my memory goes on the first state of "Chopiniana", and yes, Glazunov was the arranger. I'm not certain about the second state of the score, but memory keeps pinging Liadov as having had something to do with it.

As a ballet, "Les Sylphides" first appears with that name in public at the 1909 Season of the Diaghilev Ballets Russes.

#11 glebb

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Posted 07 April 2002 - 06:53 AM

Thanks Mel! That mind of yours contains so much amazing info!

#12 rg

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Posted 07 April 2002 - 06:55 AM

CHOPINIANA, Fokine's earliest version of the ballet now known as LES SYLPHIDES, was first given in 1907, orchestrated by Glazunov, with the Maryinsky Theater ballet in St. Petersburg, for a benefit performance. A subsequent version, also performed by the Marysinksy Theater ballet also in St. Petersburg, for a charity benefit, and called REVERIED ROMANTIQUE - BALLET SUR LA MUSIQUE DE CHOPIN (and now known as CHOPINIANA, SECOND VERSION)was given in 1908 (set by the Vsevolozhky's forest panorama drop from "The Sleeping Beauty"), in this instance the orchestrations were by Maurice Keller and Glazunov.
In 1909, with Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, LES SYLPHIDES (re-christened thus by Diaghilev and more or less in the shape known widely since then) was given in Paris, with orchestrations by Igor Stravinsky, Alexander Taneyev, and Galzunov.
w/ regard to the "Polonaise Militaire," to this day, or at least when it was last given hereabouts, the Kirov/Marysinksy Ballet has used this composition, orchestrated as in THE CONCERT, as an overture to its staging of CHOPINIANA.
i'm not sure if this rousing polonaise was part of the 1909 Paris premiere.
[my source for this information is appendix A in Lynn Garafola's DIAGHILEV'S BALELTS RUSSES (Oxford University Press, 1998)]

#13 glebb

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Posted 07 April 2002 - 06:58 AM

Wow! Thanks to you too, rg!

#14 Manhattnik

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Posted 07 April 2002 - 12:41 PM

I will never forget the Trockadero's appropriately jarring choreography to the Military Polonaise in their own version of Les Sylphides, which featured a strutting and saluting Red Army general, complete with boots and medals. Pehaps they were making a point about the incongruity of starting such a refined and atmospheric ballet with a overly rousing character piece.

#15 Mel Johnson

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Posted 07 April 2002 - 02:00 PM

Now it occurs to me why Liadov kept springing up! He was involved in arranging something "Le Festin" and was nearly the composer for "Firebird", had not his legendary laziness kept him from even buying his score paper until after the music was due!


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